Insights Online Safety Bill to proceed

The Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has confirmed that the UK government will proceed with the Online Safety Bill, after a number of doubts were raised around its continuation.

The PM iterated however that there are issues with the current version that will need to be addressed, flagging specifically the draft’s current approach to free speech. Concerns have been raised over the “legal but harmful” definition given and the obligations it may pose on platforms to regulate offensive posts.

However, the PM confirmed that the government still aims to ensure the protection of the under-18s and people’s safety online more broadly.

The Government has published two fact sheets on the amendments it made to the Online Safety Bill in July 2022: (i) Fact sheet on changes to the illegal content duties within the Online Safety Bill; and (ii) Fact sheet on enhanced protections for journalism within the Online Safety Bill.

In terms of the Fact sheet on illegal content duties (at clauses 8 and 9 of the Bill), the Government says that the amendments added to the Bill on 12 July 2022 will clarify:

  • that companies must take preventative measures, including design measures, to mitigate a broad spectrum of factors that enable illegal activity, both on and offline; and
  • how service providers should make judgements about content on their service, including whether it amounts to illegal content and must be removed.

As for the journalism Fact sheet, the Government says that the amendments added to the Bill on 12 July 2022 will:

  • prevent platforms from arbitrarily removing news content by introducing a new “temporary must carry” provision; platforms will need to notify news publishers and offer a right of appeal before removing or moderating content;
  • clarify the explicit protections for “below the line” comments on news publishers’ sites on the face of the Bill; and
  • introduce a duty on Ofcom to undertake and publish a review of the impact of the Online Safety regulatory framework on availability of journalistic content and news publisher content, as well as a requirement on platforms to carry out and publish an assessment of the impact that policies to fulfil their safety duties will have on news publishers’ content; this is to ensure that the framework does not have unintended consequences on access to news material.

To access the Fact sheets, click here and here.